December 21st, 2009

krazy koati

City sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressing in holiday style

Snowstorm, day two: first, the discovery overnight as I meant to take some pictures of the snow: well, we had something like two feet of snow, and it was still coming down. The roads were pretty near impassable from about 6 pm onward, and the attempts by the snowplows to do something about it weren't really accomplishing much. The mailboxes in front were in danger of sinking beneath the snow, even though the plowing wasn't getting near them. There were drifts up to four feet high in the sidewalk leading up to the house. And my father had locked the front door, I suppose to ward off Bigfoots.

I did go out driving, to finish the shopping I hadn't got around to finishing last night, but happily the roads weren't quite so cleared out to spoil the fun thing about snowstorm driving. I mean, it's not fun the car turning more than you mean it to turn or starting from a stop light and finding the speedometer reads 40 miles per hour while the car isn't going forward, or discovering random stretches of road closed off for no obvious reason. But there is something grandly liberating, wonderfully unreal, in the obliteration of the traffic lanes, in the jughandles becoming obscure blurry things, in how the neat lines of parking spaces are gone, and for all traffic considerations you improvise. Someone before you blazed a trail where the cars may go, on the road; you might follow it, or might vary it. Together you create a new lane, or or parking lot, or even sidewalk, inspired by the Department of Transportation, but created by a kind of community folk art.

Unfortunately while driving home I managed to find yet another tailgating idiot. I can't understand people who don't take at minimum two-second distances, and way more when there are inclement conditions such as partially plowed roads in temperatures just dropping below zero after sunset making black ice, you know, almost inevitable. And yet, there one was. I even turned my hazard lights on --- the first time I've done that in my new car, for the record --- but he called my bluff and refused to back off. Happily when I stopped for some cars that were stopped in the road to have people wander around them (don't ask me why) he decided to turn off to another road where, I trust, he found someone else to follow too closely. I hope.

Also I hope the company hired someone to clear the lot tomorrow, since otherwise it's going to be even more impossible than usual to park.

Trivia: The word ``blizzard'' referring to a severe snowstorm appears to originate in Iowa around 1870, by tradition in reference to a severe snowstorm in the northwestern part of the state. Source: Webster's Dictionary of Word Origins, Editor Frederick C Mish.

Currently Reading: Outliers: The Story Of Success, Malcolm Gladwell. I was thrown by his reprinting a list that claimed Singaporeans were (of those nationalities sampled) best able to cope with situations in which directions and procedures were most ambiguous or missing, considering how many procedures I saw they had and would share. But then I realized: you know, I had my normal share of weird little problems over there, yet never had what could be really called a bureaucratic hassle. I could turn over any problem and it would just get worked out without the need to get too frustrated (other than getting the campus computer people to believe me when there was a computer problem, at least on the first round through of explaining it). Heck, the year I lost my income tax forms I e-mailed Inland Revenue and they said, we'll send you fresh copies, and you can take an extra two weeks filling them in. It's an awfully relaxed attitude to take regarding income taxes, but awfully ... normal-person-friendly. Yet on the other hand my students were very uneasy the year I had an office with no number. Maybe it's something people grow into.